What is a Saccharometer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A saccharometer is a device which is used to measure the concentration of sugar in a solution. Saccharometers work by determining the density of the fluid, allowing people to extrapolate the sugar content. They are used in the production of wine and beer as well as in processes when people need to create sugar solutions. Cooking supply stores sometimes carry them, especially if they stock supplies for making beer and other alcoholic beverages at home.

Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

The way in which a saccharometer works is relatively simple. It consists of a cylinder attached to a bulb, with graduated markings along the side. To use the device, someone drops the saccharometer into the solution being measured. Once the device stabilizes and stops bobbing, a reading can be taken from the device. The marks can correspond to Brix, Plato, or Balling scales, all of which are expressions of the percent of sugar in a solution.

Some care does need to be taken when using a saccharometer. The device does not measure sugar content directly, instead relying on density and a pre-calibrated scale. This means that if a fluid is more or less dense than it should be, it can throw off the reading, as may happen with a heated syrup, which is less dense, or a solution with impurities which make it more dense. A saccharometer often comes with a recommended temperature range so that people know what temperatures it has been calibrated for.

As with other tools used for measurement, a saccharometer functions better when it is well maintained. After use, it should be wiped down and replaced in its protective case. It should be stored in a cool, dry place, and people should try to avoid exposing it to temperature extremes. Dropping a saccharometer can cause it to break or may lead to hairline cracks which can interfere with density measurements because they throw off the calibration of the device. If someone is not sure about whether or not the device is reading accurately, a solution of known concentration can be prepared and used to test it.

Saccharometers should not be confused with saccharimeters. A saccharimeter also measures the amount of sugar in a solution, but it uses either polarization or refractive index for its measurement. Thus, it works differently. These devices are sometimes preferred because they can be more accurate. They are also highly mobile, which is useful for things like testing grapes in the field to determine how sweet they are before harvest.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

indemnifyme

@Azuza - My brother-in-law brews beer at home and he uses his saccharometer all the time. He is a rather meticulous fellow so he insists on brewing every batch of beer to his exact specifications. This, of course, involves using the saccharometer at least twice!

Azuza

I've used a saccharometer in Biology class before but I had no idea you could use it to brew beer! That sounds way more fun than using it in an experiment.

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